PM Modi in his Phulpur rally yesterday took a rather different stand. In Shastri’s Karmabhoomi (Shastri Ji contested UP Vidhansabha from Phulpur West seat and won getting with over 69% of vote), he chose to invoke Sardar Patel.
PM Modi said that he comes from the land of Sardar Patel who is fondly remembered as a son of the soil by people, much like Shastri ji. It was an sly on Nehru who is considered more of a, as Khushwant Singh would put it a WOG – westernized oriental gentleman. PM Modi went on to say that if Patel had been the first PM of the nation, the peasants and villages wouldn’t have been reduced to the pitiable states they currently are in.
So why did Modi chose to read a page from our History. The answer lies beneath:
People often read and understand history by relating their own experiences. This is the reason why the history is seen from the opposite perspective, despite being written by the victors. The writ of Mahatma Gandhi that characterised the Indian democracy was largely based on ‘selection’ and not on ‘election’. And Mahatma effectively used his threat of retreat, only to push forward his wishes that were implemented and realised. This is the reason, why he was glorified and vilified at the same time depending on the positive and negative aspects of free India.
It is widely believed that it was Gandhi, who proposed Jawaharlal Nehru’s name and mobilised support in favour of him. Well, it was always debated whether it was a correct decision or not. Maybe Gandhi saw some advantages Nehru had over Patel, like being young, a suave appeal that can be presented at the international arena. When Nehru made it clear to Gandhi that he would not be playing second fiddle to anyone else, Mahatma took it onto him to get Pradesh Congress Committees to propose and support Nehru’s candidature. Well, Gandhi was already informed by Kripalani that none of the PCCs were ready to propose Nehru’s candidature. So, he had taken the task himself and requested Patel to withdraw himself from the race. Gandhi already told Maulana Azad that he cannot have another term in the office.
Well, we had Jawaharlal Nehru, who became the first statesman of independent India. To his credit, he established a name for himself in the international politics. Many of independent India’s growth stories have their foundations traced to Nehru’s regime. Yet, it is often debated India might have performed better, had the reins of the nascent nation were handed over to Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, whom the PCCs were supporting to the post.
Nehru’s supporters often ridicule this debate as only an imaginative one. But, the way both Patel and Nehru handled the situation before and after independence provides an insight into what India could’ve become but did not.
Despite not being the first prime minister of India, Patel would largely be remembered for making India what it is now. He was instrumental in the integration of princely states, ably supported by VP Menon. Unlike Nehru, who was an idealist, Patel was a realistic leader – and politician. Of course, both Nehru and Patel have disappointed Gandhi after the independence, though for different reasons. If Nehru disappointed for failing to check the rampant corruption that has spread into the rank and file of Congress, Patel earned his wrath for failing to maintain the safety of Muslims in independent India. Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, who criticised Patel for the same noted that Patel agreed to India’s partition only out of irritation, and expected the new state of Pakistan to disintegrate and fail.
The arduous task of integrating princely states was accomplished with two years, the toughest one being the annexation of Hyderabad. If the “Police Action” in Hyderabad was Patel’s living legacy, the “Disputed Area” that Kashmir remained is Nehru’s legacy. And it was Nehru, who prevented Patel from sending army into Kashmir immediately after the tribal attack happened and internationalised. And the internationalisation only kept the embers burn, slowly but steadily for the next seven decades and are still burning.
One of their peers, Maulana Azad choose to distinguish between the abilities of Nehru and Patel based on some crucial incidents that preceded partition. In his “additions” that were published twenty years after his demise, he wanted the world to know his opinion on these two leaders who ushered India into independence. And it was in reference to the Cabinet Misssion Plan, he expressed his idea. For the records, Azad was never for Partition of India, and was very much vocal about his views. He understood Patel was originally against Partition, but when it is known that partition is imminent, Patel not only supported it, but also pursued it with much vigour. Though Azad accused Patel of failing to save Indian Muslims, one thing he maintained till his end, he realised Patel would have prevented the partition, had he been chosen the President of Congress in 1946. As it was settled that the President of Congress would be promoted to be the Prime Minister of India, Azad, the then President, who held the post for six long years supported Nehru, though he felt Gandhi favoured Patel, considering the ideological differences between them i.e., Azad and Patel. However, the way Nehru handled the Cabinet Mission Plan, that was forced upon Muslim League, playing into the hands of Jinnah, forced Azad to introspect his decision of supporting Nehru.
As part of Cabinet Mission Plan, independent India would be having a three tier federation that is integrated by a minimal central government handling only foreign affairs, communications, defense and only those finance related matters that affect the union. Three group governments would be forming the second tier each having many provincial governments. First of these three groups is a conglomeration of many provincial governments where Hindus were in majority i.e., almost like the present India, second being similar to the current Pakistan and the third resembling present Bangladesh and the state of Assam (as was it then). However, any provincial government may opt out of the geographical group that it is in, if majority of its people opt for it. As Patel was adamant on having the Home ministry with the Congress, an adjustment was made by offering Finance Ministry to the Muslim League and Liaqat Khan was nominated by Muslim League.
Reluctantly, Jinnah agreed to this plan as was Congress. And the demand for Pakistan was almost buried. Jinnah was accused of failing to fulfil the promise of the Islamic State of Pakistan. On 10th July, 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru was giving a press conference and on being asked whether the Congress had accepted the plan in toto including the composition of interim government, Nehru replied “Congress is prepared to meet situations as and when they arise”. On demand for explanation, he further elaborated that (verbatim by Azad) Congress had only agreed to take part in the Constituent Assembly and regarded itself free to change or modify the Cabinet Mission Plan, as it thought best. Well, if a principle is not binding on Congress, how it is binding on Muslim League. Jinnah went back to his war cry and demanded Pakistan. The rest is history.
In this context, Azad realised how Sardar Patel could have thwarted the plans of Muslim League as he was more realistic politician. Perhaps, the mayhem that happened in the partition might have been avoided.
When Krishna Menon wanted funds for propaganda in Europe, Jawaharlal Nehru requested Azad to grant some funds, on which Gandhi and Patel frowned. And it was the same Krishna Menon, propped by Jawaharlal Nehru, discredited Indian Army, and was instrumental in India receiving its worst military defeat at the hands of China, in the only war between the two countries. Azad also thought Lady Mountbatten was instrumental in aligning the opinion of Nehru on Partition with that of the Lord.
On the legacy of Nehru’s India the best description was given by his own Son-in-Law, Feroze Gandhi. Starting his speech in Parliament he said “A mutiny in my mind has compelled me to raise this debate. When things of such magnitude, as I shall describe to you later, occur, silence became a crime…..”
The occasion was about first time describing a SCAM in India. Well, slowly scams became part of Indian administration so much so that even Arun Shourie, the man who fought Dhirubhai Ambani tooth and nail had to acknowledge that Dhirubhai had shown the world how business should be done.
It was not only about scams, socialist policies, license raj or institutionalising corruption and establishing family rule, but was also about taking decisions in an unbiased way, practicing what one was preaching, adhering to the values, acting in the larger interests of public keeping one’s own ideals aside. While Nehru dreamt of ideals and convinced people with his characteristic flamboyant style, Patel conveyed his realistic visions and confronted people. If Nehru choose to low down till the tide backs out, the other tried to split waves pushing himself forward. Maybe Patel really believed in the words of Gandhi that a younger prime minister is good for the nascent nation to provide stability. The comparison may at least remind all new leaders how only ‘thinking ideal’ amounts only ‘lip service’ but ‘acting touch’ would solve problems in the long run, however stinging their immediate result is.